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From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Vidyā literally means ‘knowledge,’ ‘science’.

Origin of the Word[edit]

The word is derived from the verbal root ‘vid’ which means to know’.</ref> the term vidyā stands for knowledge in general and also for any organised body of knowledge.

Vidyā as per Upaniṣads[edit]

The Upaniṣads divide vidyā into two varieties:

  1. Aparāvidyā - lower knowledge comprising all worldly sciences including the Vedas
  2. Parāvidyā - spiritual wisdom resulting in God-experience

Vidyā as per Arthaśāstra[edit]

Vidyā, when understood as ātmavidyā,[1] is posited as the antidote of avidyā or nescience. The Arthaśāstra[2] of Kauṭilya[3] recognises four kinds of vidyās:

  1. Ānvīkṣikī - logic and metaphysics
  2. Trayī - the three Vedas excluding the Atharvaveda
  3. Vārttā - agriculture, trade and allied vocations
  4. Daṇḍanītī - statecraft

Vidyā as per Viṣṇupurāṇa[edit]

The Viṣṇupurāṇa[4] lists 18 vidyās as follows:

  1. 4 Vedas
  2. 6 Vedāṅgas
  3. Mīmāmsā
  4. Nyāya
  5. Purāṇas
  6. Dharmaśāstras
  7. Ayurveda
  8. Dhanurveda
  9. Gāndharvaveda
  10. Arthaśāstra

Other References[edit]

Sometimes this word is used to indicate special modes of meditation such as Aksipurusavidyā, Bhumavidyā and so on. The 64 kalās[5] are also sometimes known as vidyās.


  1. Ātmavidyā means realisation of the ātman.
  2. Arthaśāstra 2.1
  3. He lived in 321 B. C.
  4. Viṣṇupurāṇa 3.6.28, 29
  5. Kalās means arts.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore